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1998 Honda Civic intermittent non start maybe flooded?

First off, I’m not a car guy, that why I’m here to try and get some help from people much smarter than me.

I have a 1998 Honda Civic (160,000 mi) that occasionally wont start. It usually happens when I have been to the store or something, when I come back out and try to start the car, it just cranks and cranks with no starting. The first time I left the car for a few hours because I though the engine might be hot and if it cooled down it would start. After leaving it for a few hours, it started right back up, no problem. More recently when this happens, I let it sit for 10 to 15 min trying to start it every once in a while and eventually it does start back up but it really smells of fuel (I think it flooded). Also, on the freeway I can feel it misfire a little bit but to me, it’s not a huge problem. Also, occasionally when at a light or something it will rev up and down until I start driving again. A few months ago, my friend replace the distributor, wire and plugs and timing belt but the problem still persisted. Any ideas on what to try and look at to fix the non-starting problem?

Have you tried flooring it when it doesn’t start? This should shut the fuel injectors off and clear a flooded engine in 3 - 5 seconds. Could be a dirty MAF sensor or bad coolant temperature sensor.

I have not tried flooring it. I will try that the next time it happens. Is there a way to check the MAF sensor?

The problem could be the result of leaking fuel injectors…if the car actually has fuel injection.
Can the OP tell us whether this car is carbureted or is fuel injected?

Yes, it has fuel injection.

The only solution guaranteed is to check it out while it is in a no start condition. As stated above fuel injectors failing would be a good guess. Normally the fuel pressure is maintained in an off condition. The gas smell could be from the injectors leaking fuel into the cylinder basically putting so much gas into the cylinder that it will not fire. The gas will seep into the oil or evaporate explaining the time lag.

If you are really lucky a dose of techron or seafome might solve your problem.

Oops, a '98 Civic doesn’t have a MAF sensor, rather it has a MAP sensor. Here’s a video on how to test it. However, I don’t think it cause a no-start/flooded condition.

I think I may have found a solution. On another forum a user had a very similar problem. He found that when the car would not start, if he unplugged the ECT sensor the car would start right up. I tried that today and my car started right up. I’m going to replace the sensor tonight and see if that fixes the issue.

Update on the car. I replace the ECT sensor last week and the car has been running like a dream ever since. No more misses on the freeway, no more surging idle and no more starting issues.

Thank you for letting us know of your results!